Intertitle of the Week

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From THE WILD PARTY.

This commemorates the fact that I have only one class left to give (on Billy Wilder, so that’ll be fun) and am basically on my Christmas break for a month, and also celebrates that cute early talkies habit of using occasional intertitles — as Kubrick said, sometimes writing on the screen is just the most direct and effective way to move the story on.

THE WILD PARTY was the first talkie of Paramount Studios, director┬áDorothy Arzner and┬ástar Clara Bow. Bow was terrified of the microphone, which often had to be hidden to allow her to perform, but since Arzner was determined not to be a slave to the sound man, she had invented the microphone boom, so sometimes the mic was hovering in the air above Bow’s head, freaking her out.

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A tale of sexy shenanigans and student-teacher romance at a girls’ college, THE WILD PARTY is notable for undressing its cast of lovelies to their lingerie as often as can reasonably be managed, and for turning abruptly dark in the middle, when our four main girls go out dressed as showgirls (having been rejected from a college party for their slutty costumes) and narrowly escape gang rape by loathsome drunks.

Otherwise things are mostly very light (so this interlude is all the more shocking) with Fredric March as the dishy but bad-tempered new lecturer getting chased by all the girls (real-life sex fiend March no doubt enjoyed that) and the pleasure of many many different varieties of early talkie performance. Clara play-acts beautifully, like the former child actor she once was, telegraphing everything to the audience, but doing it with charm. Some of those other girls can’t act in any conventional sense, but there’s such a cornucopia of ways of failing to act on display here, it’s impossible to get bored. Some of these approaches might be budding METHODS, which nobody bothered to pursue and elaborate into Stanislavskian theories, but asides from the pulchritude, they’re the main reason to enjoy THE WILD PARTY, to which I append the sub-title, FIFTEEN WAYS OF TALKING YOU NEVER HEARD BEFORE. Just think of the box-office if they’d used that as a slogan in 1929!

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Happy holidays!

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3 Responses to “Intertitle of the Week”

  1. Leave us not forget Dorothy liked girls in their undies too, you know. There’s a famous on-the-set photo of Clara sitting in Dorothy’s lap.

  2. Paramount’s first talkie. Looks like they got things started with a bang. Can’t help but wonder how well this one did at the box office. And somehow I can’t help but think that people didn’t go see this for the acting, or the dialogue for that matter.

  3. Clara was jeopardised by talkies, but she’s great in this, and her voice suits her perfectly. Alas, she didn’t sustain her career much longer.

    There’s a hilarious interview in The Silent Feminists where Esther Ralston complains, at length, about how Dorothy Arzner was always trying to get her to do “sexy stuff” in their movies together, which she didn’t think was right for her image.

    “I like to think all my directors fell in love with me a little. I know Dorothy Arzner did.” ~ Joan Crawford.

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